Edifying, Necessary, and Gracious (Ephesians 4:29)

Last time, I focused on listening, as we looked at James 1:19, “be quick to hear, slow to speak.” This time I thought I will address a little about speaking by sharing one of my favorite guides for speech from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

In a very practical section of his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul includes some very valuable advice for godly speech. This three point lesson has become a favorite of mine, one that I frequently used with my own family. Even today, my two adult children will be quick to correctly answer the question, “What are the three rules of our speech.”

I must credit Dr. John MacArthur for this valuable lesson. I first heard options listening to a tape (yes a tape…not an MP3) of one of his radio messages in the early 90s. Let’s get to the lesson, starting with the verse. Paul writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).

Applying the Wisdom of Ephesians 4:29

As I mentioned earlier, this verse gives us three things that should govern our speech. Before we get to those, let’s consider the first part of the verse, which says what our speech should not be. Our speech should not be corrupting. The word translated “corrupting” means rotten or putrid, and is often used to describe vegetables that have gone bad. Think of how a rotten vegetable can impact other vegetables, or as the old saying goes, “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” Our speech should not corrupt those to whom we speak.

Now let’s consider three things that should always describe our speech if we want that speech to be biblical. After telling us what our speech should not be like, Paul adds what our speech should be like. He writes that our speech should be good for building up, fitting the occasion, and give grace to those who hear. Dr. MacArthur sums up this teaching with three adjectives that should describe our speech:EdifyingNecessaryGracious

Edifying, Necessary, and Gracious

Let’s look at these three more closely and see both the godliness and the practicality associated with them.

  • Edifying-Think about how often you use words to tear someone down. It’s unfortunate that we so frequently use God’s gift of language to such sinful ways. James writes, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10, ESV). No, we should words to build up one another.
  • Necessary-When I was a young newlywed, an experienced husband gave me the following sound advice, “Some things are better left unsaid.” Biblical wisdom provides similar advice, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking,but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19, ESV). Self-serving words should be the first to be restrained.
  • Gracious-In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Every breath we take is due to the grace of God. Should we not, therefore, give grace to others with our words.

So, consciously consider these three words as you communicate with others this weekend.

New week, I will begin a series of articles explaining the Quick to Hear approach to communication and it’s development from the original communication model I developed to train the military, intelligence organizations, law enforcement, and other professionals.

As you work on being edifying, necessary, and gracious, remember to be quick to hear,


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